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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Post Cards from the Edge...of the early 20th Century (Part 2)

This is just a brief post to show a couple of the Yale post cards that came in the album I found in Redding. The images are in fine condition despite being written on.  Some post cards seem to have been designed to send merely as a "Hello", or a "Yup, This is where I am."  as the space to write anything is severely hampered. Seems that Twitter, in one form or another has been around for quite some time. The dining hall at Yale must have been some spot to eat.(click to enlarge)

I expected it had been torn down or re-purposed in the last 100 years, but no.
I Like how the 2 shots were taken from just about the same angle.  Seems the only thing that's changed are the servers, who now stand behind steam trays, instead of tables. These next 2 are of Woolsey Hall, home of the Yale Symphony and pipe organ. First, in 1905:
And present day:
Some things never change.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post Cards from the Edge...of the early 20th Century (Part 1)

As teased in my last post, I found an estate sale that wasn't really a dig.  Hundreds of old books - 19th century and up - moved from somewhere else and for sale in a large barn in Redding CT. With the sheer number and disorganization I was surprised to find what I consider a prize.
The cover is faded and the condition is poor and the specks of green are either the color this once was, or mold that has taken the place of the once vibrant color, but in this case, cover-schmuver! Inside were 44 post cards from around 1905, all from Connecticut (except 1 or 2) and all sent to one person in my town! Now, here I am in Redding, but what are the odds I will pick up a single book and find local history, really local history, for the sum of $10?  Priceless!

The bulk of the cards are of various locations in New Haven, and the rest are scattered around the State.
This one has an interesting note: "Flora (sp)- I expect to stay here until Wed. and when I reach Clara's shall expect a letter from you.  Ret. " Seems rather demanding, but it could have been he was waiting for an answer to a question...Many of these cards have the last name of the recipient vary from Odell to Sagendorf. 

Stay tuned for next time as we try to unravel the continuing saga of Florence and her demanding beau...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! and aToast to a Long-Gone Beer

As we went around the dinner table tonight, we all said one thing we were thankful for. AVA said "friends," my wife said "Family."  No one else could really top that, and the rest of us said a variation until it was my turn. I often wonder what other nations (besides Canada) think of our holidays. A long time ago at a dinner table far, far away I am sure that Yoda is looking at our celebration and exclaiming, "Holiday named I appreciation for thanks giving called!" Well as funny as the name sounds, I didn't go into any diatribe over how it could be better named, and gave my thanks, "I am thankful for the family that is here, and the family that is not...and estate sales." Not meant to be callous, though this could be compared to asking Santa for world peace and a machine gun. Truthfully, I really am thankful for a lot of things and whether you are reading this because I hounded you with email blast, after email blast, or you showed up randomly, or you came here via the growing number of other bloggers who post my link on their site...for them and you, and my guest writers, I am especially thankful. This blog has been an interesting exercise in writing, marketing, photography, goal-setting, etc., and the pay-off in experience alone is worth the effort.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank You.

I was thankful last weekend, when the only area sales within range were Redding and Danbury, CT. The Redding sale turned out to be a repeat of someone's items displayed in a 4-car garage. Only this time, the bulk of items were an odd collection of several hundred old books. Among them were 2 subjects that are among my weakness...beer, and other peoples mail. No, I am neither a lush, nor a spy. When the opportunity to spy on a famous brewer in 1950's New York came up, well, okay, by that definition I am a spy. I am also known for judging a book (not people) by its cover.
Ruppert Knickerbocker Beer Annual Report 1958
Unremarkable to look at, but at 10" tall and in good condition for 1958, definitely worth opening. Inside it is a year in the life of the board of directors of the then 90 year old brewery Rupert Knickerbocker. I remember the brand from other brewerina items I have found (and didn't keep), and had a fondness for beers that were truly New York brands (Rheingold, too) and now gone.  I quickly leafed through the book and saw some of the mention of their sales figures and opinions of ad campaigns and knew I had to buy this.
Ruppert Knickerbocker Beer Annual Report 1958 Ad
$5 later and back home, I am reading every word and sadly realizing that in 1958 this is a beer in decline. All their monthly meeting reports read the same: " We sold 99,000 barrels last month, which is down 1700 barrels for the same period last year...what happened?"  To me that sounds like New York, New Jersey and most of New England was drinking a heck of a lot of beer last month in 1958.  Unfortunately, not enough. The reports go on to talk of consolidation, plant closure, and even reduction of the number of paid board members, "Sorry Bob, you're history."
The comments on the ad campaigns are also great with some board members feuding over which tagline works best, and "Knock for a Knick!" losing badly at the table.
Knickerbocker Beer ad
This ad comes from a site on New York History and I have to thank the researchers there for digging this up and letting me use it (awaiting permission). Though this brewery lasted into the 60's, it was interesting to see why it wasn't going to last much longer than that. Included in the book is the transcription of the stockholders meeting where a very heated discussion occurs of the rumor that Anheuser-Busch may have wanted to buy them out and how the Board was silent instead of acknowledging or denying it. 

If you like Beer and its history, I may have found a gem, but that wasn't all I found at this sale:
Post Card Souvenir Album
not in great condition, but full of 100+ year old post cards...see you next post!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Stand for All Seasons

This is one of my all-time favorites.  It scores a five out of five on all the major find-scoring criteria, on the McNeely-Rand scale anyway. By the way, there is no McNeely Rand scale, I wanted some kind of viable scale to judge all "finds" on, but unless I invent something, well...  If there were such a thing, the criteria would have to be 1) uniqueness - it has to be something no one has ever seen before - or at least not for a long time.  2) Utilitarian - It must have served a useful purpose and the score here would be based on the question: Does it still...?   3) Condition - It has to work. a pinball machine might have been painted with wonderful artwork, but if you can't play it...Tilt!   4) Value - Someone else has to want this for their collection, in my case this may never be known. 5) Assumed provenance - If it lacks its own story, then the story of how it was found, and the history written from research can fill in for the fact that it might have been Davinci's, but he tossed it.

I was at a Bethel estate sale when I found this in the attic.  It was $4, and I must have spent 15 minutes trying get it to do whatever it was supposed to do.  I recognized the manufacturer, Sawyer,  a seller of accessories for 8mm and 16mm projectors and other 50's & 60's AV equipment.  I think they may have been the earliest manufacturer of the Viewmaster.  Continuing to poke around this pandora's box, I found the release and its purpose began to unfold: 

It weigh's almost ten pounds, but I was convinced at first that it was a glorified power strip and a lazy susan. Then it popped.
My first thought was, "Oh crap! I broke it." How was I going to squish its guts back in too small a container? I figured, rather than retreat I would go for broke, or broken, as a worse case scenario. Instead, I got the "Wholly Grail!" reaction from myself and the other diggers in the attic.
As I lifted the black metal plate, the base slightly spun as the metal straps fell into place.  I placed my palm down on the plate, now 4 feet off the ground, and with all my weight, I couldn't get it to budge. The gadget-ologist inside me howled with delight. It was a masterpiece of design. My definition being, that to look at upon it, your first impression would be, "That can't work!" But oh how it does, and without a wobble; it is solid as a rock.  For my next trick, I hit the release and spun/folded it back to its original flat self. It's a much better idea to haggle with an item that is in its reduced state, rather than its most prominent.
So, there you have it. This Sawyer Projector Stand is a definite 5 out of 5 on the McNeely-Rand ultra fictitious fabulous find scale.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Before and After: the 1884 Medicine show

If there were such a thing as time travel, (aside from the 60 sec/minute speed we're moving at now) I would like to take one of the handful of 19th century newspapers I've found and use it as a portal. Aside from all the comparative knowledge you could take to an era (My God! He has a ball-point quill!), you could actually verify all the things we know of a period and bring back some accuracy. I'm not calling foul to the historians and writers of the time, but I know I can't send an email or contribute to a meeting without the reply or the minutes being distorted. It's no wonder why internet search works so well, we seem to read and write in keywords only the rest is treated as just filler. Truthfully, in looking through those papers I only scan the articles. The real eye-catch are the ads, and there-in lie the greatest, well, lies.
These ads are from the "The Berkshire County Eagle"  April 22, 1884 (poorly scanned above).  Another gem from a box lot of items I found a few summers ago This one is not so acidified that it couldn't be rescued from the 12 folds that some previous holder had sentenced it to.  I could read these all day and never get tired. What the heck is "Spermatorrhea?"  Wait. Don't tell me. It is exactly what it sounds like. Next!
The "Before and After" is a great marketing trick. I wonder who thought of it first? Garden of Eden before, and Garden of Eden after. In the ad above, if you can get beyond sharing with family and friends that you would actually see a Dr. named "Dye", then you can trust that you 'll be transformed from a sickly young Abe Lincoln, to a vibrant U.S. Grant. I am not going for historical accuracy here, that's merely who the pictures look like to me. 

Right below one of these ads, of which there were several in this paper, was what I refer to as the penultimate "after" and may best describe how accurate all of the medicinal promises actually were.
Now, that's what I want - a hearse with all the Trimmings!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Droll, Very Droll

While I am out looking for the Holy Grail, or lost copy of the Declaration of Independence, I commonly look for items that might actually be useful in our daily life. In fact, because I sale so consistantly you might hear me ask, "Looking for something?"  Why? One, it's another excuse to go hit the sales,two, you are more likely to find something when looking for something else. Don't believe me? Try this experiment. The next time you lose something, instead of stressing over finding it. Begin looking for something else. Trust me, once you relax your brain is no longer worried about an exact match for the original item. Looking for something else actually widens your percepted subconscious field of view and you become more aware of your surroundings.  Did you just ask me what my Degree was in? Well, I know I got a BS in something...Anyway, I have tried this at estate sales, and it works.
The box of medical equipment I found this summer is a good example. It wasn't even in plain sight. A few Saturdays ago, AVA and I were at a junky, repeat sale; I was hoping that she wouldn't see something she had to have, and then I noticed something from the list of things to look for:
A Bird feeder is the kind of thing that can turn a bland backyard into something visual and useful. We have gone through numerous feeders thanks to the elements and the squirrels. Of course, if I wanted something lasting I'd have to pay for it.
$99! for some plastic and a bit of metal?  The right item at the right time on this day was only $2. Click on the description for a larger image.  I had seen Droll feeders, even one at a tag sale last year that was $85 and I couldn't believe it then. This wasn't the "spinner" which launches rats with good PR (read: squirrels) into space.  I had found the "whipper" the only feeder that uses S&M to keep the squirrels at bay. Actually, the perches are spring-loaded to only allow birds the size of cardinals to sit. Any larger (like those damned Blue Jays - hate them) and the perch gives way and bye bye big birdie.

So, the moral is: Be careful what your not looking for; you may find it, for a couple of bucks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do Republicans Really want change?

When I go hunting for a story on the weekends, I have to admit, it is not the obsession I make it out to be. It's really all about prioritizing time management. I am a husband/father first, an employee next, then after a little sleep comes the urban archeologist.  The few sales I do hit need to have the kind of aura I am looking for. No, it's not a certain color, it's something else.  It might be a single item, or might be just the way an assortment of items has been cast around a room, letting me know that there's something in there.  Sometimes I just have to settle for the weirdest thing I can find.
Republican change purse

Case in point: What is this? I didn't know, but it is leather and 2.5" x 2.5" square. Inside, there is a sticker that say's "made in India."  The top is cushiony and most prominently is the GOP symbol stamped or branded into the red leather. I couldn't help but use this post's title as my way of approaching the owner to see if she knew what it was.

Being that it was a change purse, my opening line got such a good laugh from the owner that she gave it to me. Unfortunately, she didn't know anything about it's origin or how they had gotten it.  If you have ever seen one of these before, please leave a comment

Just to make sure my blog is not misread as favoring one party over another:
Billy Beer CanBilly beer can
Jimmy Carter was one of Dem...so I guess his brother must have been one, too.  Though after a few of these, well, a party's a party, right? I once had a medium sized beer can collection (read: it took more than 5 boxes to store it) and although I've parted with it, there are a few I had to keep.  My father scored this one for me, back in  '79 and even popped it from the bottom to save the pull tab on top.  This is probably a beer that should never have been brewed at all. Visit the Wikipedia page for a few more dismal facts on this meager brew.

Thinking about it now, maybe this was not the best prop to even the playing field on election day.  Then again, an empty purse VS. an empty beer can?  Hmm, the party's over and there no one to pay the piper....come to think of it, I have equally crashed both parties!